Stage 7 took the 2018 Dakar Rally from La Paz to Uyuni in 264 fast-paced miles.
After enjoying a rest day in the Bolivian capital on Friday, the field took off for a ‘marathon stage’ where no outside assistance is allowed. With their crews in Tupiza, the competitors have to survive the day – and Sunday – on their own.
Not only that, but the mud caused by the rain turned the day into a mechanical mess, seeing Stephane Peterhansel lose the overall lead after breaking his car’s suspension.
Sunday will see the drivers reach Tupiza in southern Bolivia.
For full results, head here.
Having won on Thursday, Carlos Sainz started first – and finished first. But it wasn’t plain sailing in between with the Team Peugot Total driver quickly overtaken by his teammate and 13-time Dakar champion Peterhansel.
That was until Peterhansel destroyed his shock absorber and rear suspension, losing 1h45m in the process. The third Peugeot driver Cyril Despres, who lost all hopes of overall victory on Tuesday with a broken wheel, stopped to help Peterhansel repair his 3008 DKR.
Today’s winner and the new overall leader, Sainz eventually finished ahead of the Toyota drivers Giniel de Villiers and Nasser Al-Attiyah and now leads by 1 hour, 11 minutes.
Sainz said: “It was quite difficult in the beginning, with a lot of hors-piste and drifting. Afterwards we had good roads. It’s a matter of surviving; there is still a long way to go. Of course now it’s a bit different, but we need to focus and get out of problems.”
Peterhansel said: “I don’t know why but I went to the side of the track and there was an incredibly violent shock, I didn’t see the stone coming. It ripped the entire rear part of the car. We destroyed everything. The car is a bit diminished, we cannibalized Cyril’s car, which we left over there. We stayed 1h50 doing mechanics. Anyway, I’m not playing my career here so I will keep smiling. There is no physical injury. But the moral is a bit hurt and so is the 3008.”
Thursday’s winner and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Antoine Meo opened the road, only to be quickly overtaken by a masterful Joan Barreda. The Spaniard took the win and should have been all smiles in Uyuni, but instead a grimace of pain crossed his face as the Spaniard explained how he fell almost 200 miles in. The accident left the Honda rider with a seriously hurt knee that might force him to withdraw.
Adrien Van Beveren – the new overall leader – came in second and Kevin Benavides in third. 2016 Dakar winner Toby Price took four.
In 19th place today and 19th overall, Laia Sanz arrived in Uyuni her bike covered of dirt. The KTM athlete said: “It was a very physical stage, with lots of sand at the start and tons of mud later on. It’s a shame that I got stuck in the mud in the end, I lost a bit of time, but I’m satisfied. I’m just happy to be here with no problems.”
A Yamaha triumph today with Axel Dutrie first, Marcelo Medeiros second and the 2014 winner Ignacio Casale in third place. Coming from Chile, Casale maintains a solid overall lead.